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President Bush Announces National Guard Will Have Expanded Role at Security Checkpoints

Aired November 9, 2001 - 14:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking at live picture of the East Room at the White House. President Bush remarking at some defense awards ceremony. He'll talk about airline security.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Welcome to the White House. Thank you all for coming.

I'm pleased to be here today to salute the National Guardsmen and reservists and their employers for serving their country, and to announce some important new measures to make air travel more secure over the holidays.

America is engaged in a long and difficult struggle. At a key moment in our history, an important moment in the history of freedom, members of the National Guard and Reserve are answering their country's call. They are performing their duty with skill and with courage. And by supporting their mobilization, many employers are demonstrating their own patriotism.

In a moment I will sign a proclamation naming next week National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week. It is a way to express our appreciation to these employers and to thank them for their selfless devotion to our great country.

I want to thank the secretary of transportation, who is here, Norm Mineta. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for your hard work.

I appreciate Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for being here as well. Thank you, Paul.

And, of course, I want to thank John McHugh, representative from New York. Thank you for coming, John.

America faces an evil and a determined enemy. They committed mass murder against innocent citizens, and they have brought misery and terror to the people of Afghanistan. They persecute women. They destroy great monuments of human culture and religious faith. They execute people who convert to other religions. They steal food that we send to help starving people. They hope to spread their terror around the world, but we're not going to let them.

The Al Qaeda terrorist network, and every nation that supports it, are enemies of liberty and human dignity. We will oppose them, we'll find them and we'll defeat them.

(APPLAUSE)

The American people have responded magnificently to this challenge.

The terrorists thought they could break the spirit of this country. They really didn't understand America. Their attacks have had the opposite effect, for we are strong, we're united, we are patient, we're determined, and all of us are ready to serve the great cause of freedom.

The National Guard and Reserve are examples of this service. Since September the 11th, we have called to active duty nearly 53,000 Guard and Reserve personnel. They are guarding energy plants. They are meeting the military's intelligence, medical and supply needs with specialized training. And they are securing our airports.

In order to increase security of airline travelers during the holiday season, we will increase by 25 percent the number of National Guard personnel to protect our airports and airlines and American travelers.

We are calling up these Guardsmen and -women immediately. This increase in security will last through the busy holiday period and is in addition to the more than 6,000 members of the Guard already mobilized at airports since September the 11th. These are temporary measures, and we believe they'll help a lot.

And we're making fundamental changes to airport security as well. The federal government must take, and I believe will take, control of aviation security.

I am pleased that both houses of Congress have passed bills that do just that, and I urge Congress to work hard to resolve the differences between the two bills -- they are not that far apart -- and to get to my desk as quickly as possible a bill that will make air travel much safer for the American people.

While Congress finishes its business, I have instructed our good secretary, Secretary of Transportation Mineta, to begin a series of high-level transition planning sessions with airport operators, security device manufacturers, airline CEOs and other parties that will play a direct role in the transition to the new airport security system.

There are additional steps we are taking to increase the public safety and its confidence in air travel. The FAA is deploying a core team of security professionals to improve oversight of screening and other security functions at our airports. I am instructing the inspector general of the Department of Transportation to conduct undercover audits of security performance at airports nationwide to ensure the strict compliance of FAA security standards.

And in September, I announced a $300 million grant program to secure cockpit doors on airplanes, and I commend the airlines for acting quickly.

The major airlines have now fortified cockpit doors on 100 percent of their airplanes.

We're fighting a war on many fronts. It's a diplomatic war. It's a financial war. The military is performing brilliantly in Afghanistan.

And we could not win the war without the help of the Guard and the reservists. And they, in turn, could not do their vital work without the support of their employers.

Many employers are putting the national interests above their own self-interests, including the five recipients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. They have representatives with us today: Southwest Airlines, Boeing, EDS -- Electronic Data Systems, BAE Systems and the city of Bedford, Virginia.

These employers are supporting the National Guard and Reserve in practical and important ways, including providing full pay and benefits and job security to employees who are called to active service.

Employers do these things because they recognize that their workers are fighting to keep America free. They recognize that we have such huge stakes. They also know that America's military forces are the best trained in the world, and when you hire a member of the Guard or the Reserve, you bring that training to your workplace.

Since September the 11th, more than 1,000 state and local chambers of commerce have signed statements of support for employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

Well, the federal government, it turns out, is the largest employer of Guard and Reserve personnel in America. And I am proud to sign a statement of support on behalf of our federal government.

I'm also pleased to sign the proclamation naming next week National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week. I'd like to welcome up to the stage for the signing Paul Wolfowitz, who represents the Defense Department, and the five winners of the Secretary of Defense Employers Support Freedom Award.

I want to thank you all for your service to America. Thank you for coming to the White House. And may God bless America.

WOODRUFF: President Bush in a ceremony at the White House applauding and praising five -- actually four companies in the city of Bedford, Virginia for the support that they've been giving to their employees in each instance who are working temporarily in the National Guard and the Reserves. In effect, what the president said is they have given salary, full pay and full benefits to the people on their payroll, and it's clear what the president, and what administration is trying to do, is pointing to these as an example, and to encourage other employers around the country to make it easier for National Guard and for Reservist to be called back up. The president said he will, in connection with all of this, he is going to use 25 percent -- increase the number of National Guardsmen working at airports and making airlines safer, increase that number by 25 percent. Our White House correspondent Major Garrett is with us now.

Major, even though Congress has still not resolved what it's going to do about airline security, the president is not waiting.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, he's not, Judy.

And the context for this is really twofold. You had this congressional stalemate over airline security, plus an increasing public anxiety during about whether or not during this very busy holiday season through the airways, are airways and airlines, in fact, going to be as secure as most American passengers would like them to be. The White House has sensed that the answer of most Americans who are thinking about flying this holiday season is no, and that's reflected in passenger loads for the holiday season not where airlines would them to be. The airlines are hemorrhaging millions of dollars every day in operating losses.

It is that twin context the White House is trying to address here. We're beyond the stalemate in Congress, at least temporarily, but the National Guard personnel in airport, not only in a visible way, they've been visible for a couple, three weeks now, but in a much more active way, active at monitoring at baggage checkpoints, active at monitoring bag drop-offs outside, active at various security checkpoints, even at the gates, active at the perimeters of airports, much more visible, much more active National Guard presence, all designed to encourage passengers to conclude that in fact the airlines and air travel is safe, so to book those tickets and help the airlines get through this holiday period -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, Major, the president saying again, as he said on several occasions, the House and the Senate aren't that far apart. I urge them to move quickly to resolve their differences. Why isn't the president weighing in with the Republican side of this argument, if you will, that there should not be -- that the people who do baggage screening should not all be federal employees?

GARRETT: That's a very good question, Judy. It's presidential tactics really by omission. If the president were in fact absolutely 100 percent behind that House Republican position, you would imagine he would take this and every other opportunity he's had push the case to the public. He's chosen not to do that. The White House understand that because the House so narrowly defeated the House version, which is really matching version of the Senate bill that passed 100-0, it's not in a position to demand everything it would like to see. So it's going to essentially leave it up to the members of Congress on the key negotiating conference committee, representatives from the House and the Senate, to resolve these differences.

Everyone says they wants to wrap this up quickly. The president, those involved in the conference committee, key Congressional leaders, but as yet, there's very, very little progress on the ground in Congress resolving this key issue of whether or not all security personnel will in fact be federal civil servants. The White House preference is that they not be. democrats are very strong that they should be. There's no movement on that, so the president is really just sort of saying, in a glowing sense, I think they're close, but the reality is, they are no closer than they were, in real sense, than they were a week ago.

WOODRUFF: But also saying, let them work it out. All right, Major Garrett, at the White House. Once again, President Bush announcing that he has signed an order to increase during the holiday period the number of personnel, National Guard personnel stationed at airports, working on the airlines, to make holiday travel safer. He said, immediately, we are going to up those numbers by 25 percent, and they will be on-duty through the holidays.

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